NYC building super accused of raping, terrorizing undocumented woman for years

A Flatiron District building super was hit with a slew of charges Tuesday alleging he trapped an undocumented single mother of a special needs child under his employ in a yearslong cycle of vicious sexual abuse, beatings, and blackmail to prevent her escape.

Jose Espinoza, 62, pleaded not guilty to rape, aggravated sexual abuse, labor trafficking, assault and related offenses at his Manhattan Supreme Court arraignment, where authorities alleged he asserted total domination over a terrorized Paraguayan woman for six years after hiring her to have sex with him and clean units in his building in August 2017.

Espinoza is accused of destroying the woman’s passport and demanding a nude photo of her daughter to hold over her as blackmail during the abuse. Prosecutors at the Manhattan district attorney’s office allege he forced her to have sex with him in front of the special needs girl.

Assistant District Attorney Jonathon Junig said at Espinoza’s arraignment that the woman managed to break free while still under Espinoza’s constant surveillance in late 2023, when she was undergoing breast cancer treatment. She fled about nine months after first disclosing the abuse to a social worker at Bellevue, who helped her carry out an escape plan by moving her clothes and personal items to the hospital from Espinoza’s bit-by-bit, the prosecutor said.

When the woman felt it was safe to attempt to escape in December, the NYPD arrested Espinoza and, in a joint investigation with the DA’s office, discovered how tightly he had the victim surveilled, court documents detail. Authorities allege the super had CCTV surveillance set up and that he stalked her with the “Find my Friends” app on his iPhone.

Espinoza made bail following his December arrest. At his Tuesday arraignment, Justice Ann Scherzer declined to remand him at prosecutors’ request but raised his cash bail from $200,000 to $400,000 and doubled his bond options to $800,000, to be secured at around 10%.

“These alleged acts are absolutely horrendous, and I cannot imagine the physical, emotional and mental trauma this survivor continues to experience,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “It took extraordinary strength and courage for her to come forward, and our team of specially trained prosecutors, investigators and social workers will support her with every resource we have available.”

Reached by The News, Espinoza’s attorney, Joe Caldarera, said his client was innocent and claimed he had a consensual sexual relationship with the alleged victim, who the lawyer charged was a “scorned” mistress and “illegal alien who sees her perfect opportunity to get her citizenship here in the U.S. while seeking and exacting revenge on a man who she’s obsessed with.”

Caldarera claimed his client’s family helped “nurse her back to health,” adding, “She’s mad, and she’s angry he won’t leave his wife to be with her.”

Espinoza is due back in court Feb. 13.